I recently received a letter from an employee (I’ll call her Barbara) who was fed up with a man (I’ll call him Jason) in her office who constantly interrupted her. The interrupter was nice, the person said, but she was going to strangle him one of these days.
“He just starts talking, really loudly, when I’m on the phone,” Barbara says. “And, the other day he did the same thing when I was in the middle of a conversation with someone else. He couldn’t miss the fact that I was speaking with someone, but he just kept talking really loudly.”
To add to the annoyance is the fact that Jason has an irritating laugh – “sort of a cross between a honking goose and braying jackass,” Barbara wrote.
This letter is similar to many complaints I have heard over the years. While we may find the people with work with nice enough, some of their habits drive us crazy. We spend up to eight hours a day or more with these folks, and often certain personality quirks can cause huge problems if not addressed.
Here’s a way to handle someone like Jason:
Be perfectly clear. There’s no use pussyfooting around someone who continually interrupts you. If you’re on the phone, ask that person to hold a moment, or excuse yourself with a smile when speaking directly to someone. Walk up to Jason, look him in the eye and say, “I am in the middle of something that I need to finish. I will talk with you later.” If you need to, guide Jason out of your office or away from your work space with your hand on his elbow.
Follow up. If the problem exists on many levels – Jason interrupting when you’re on the phone, Jason interrupting private conversations, Jason interrupting when you’re in a meeting – then you need to make sure he fully understands your position. Find a time and place to speak to him privately and say: “I should have spoken up when this first happened, so forgive me for that oversight. Your voice can be very loud and disruptive when I’m on the phone, and interrupting me when it’s not an emergency is a problem. I’d like to talk about how we can resolve it.”
Finally, remember that because you have to continue to work on a daily basis with some of these people who irritate you, don’t be so rude or hostile to them that you sever any chances of working together in a professional way. Always remain calm, but continue to stand by your position that it’s a problem affecting the way you do your job, so it is an issue that must be addressed.